“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
This morning I was doing physical therapy on my hand from a recent surgery. The conversation in the room turned to religion. A lot of the time I like to keep my profession on the down low because the conversations become lest than honest once people find out what I do for a living. I sat and listened for some time without saying anything. The physical therapist was the only one who knew what I did for a living and I got the impression that she was kind of enjoying the fact that I had some expertise but was just listening quietly...at least for a while.
After a while my physical therapist told me that the guy who assisted with the surgery believed that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. My reaction may not have been the best, I laughed and said "he is full of crap." A few minutes later he came into the room; so, I took the opportunity. I said, " I hear you think Jesus was married to Marry Magdalene." He reassured me that it was, in fact, true. He then provided evidence suggesting that she was called the "companion" of Jesus and that, at that time the word meant wife, or spouse. I reassured him this was not the case, but he wouldn't budge even after I explained that I have some expertise in this area. The reality is that I have never actually done a word study on the word "companion" and I could not recall where in the gospels it used this word in reference to Mary Magdalene even though she does play a prominent role in the story of Jesus. When I told him he should do a word study he said that he had. Truth is, he hasn't, at least not in any kind of scholarly way. My guess is that he read the Da Vinci Code and some articles online. That isn't really a word study, so I decided I would do one so that I am prepared next week when I see him...I will certainly bring it up.
Knowing that there are likely different words that could be translated "companion" I decided to search out this mysterious text that referred to Mary Magdalene in this manner. I'll admit to taking a little bit of a short cut when I begin this kind of research. I will often us Google to get me going. I was baffled by the results. Google didn't find any reference in the canonical gospels that referred to Mary in this manner. Usually when those who questions the Biblical narrative get a hold of something like this there are numerous articles or posts by the Dan Brown fan-boys and fan-girls. I found nothing. I did however not stop. I was on my phone and my Bible software is difficult to use on my phone, so when I got back to the office I used the more robust and thorough search engine on my computer that could search several different translations. Once again, I found no reference to Mary as the companion of Jesus.
I did remember seeing something from Wikipedia when I was going through search results on my phone, so Wikipedia it was...ah ha! I finally found the reference to Mary Magdalene as the companion of Jesus in the gospel of Philip. I know what you're thinking, you don't remember that gospel being in the canonical gospels. You are right, it isn't. That is because it was written at least 200 years after the death of Jesus and is part of a group of writings known as the gnostic gospels discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi in northern Egypt. The gnostic gospels are not included in the cannon for good reason. They were written long after the events of the New Testament took place, we don't know who wrote them (the gospel of Philip was not written by Phillip), and the church at the time rejected them as fraudulent and heretical.
There is more. Once I realized that the reference was in the gospel of Philip I realized that this might not be a Greek word since these gnostics gospels weren't written in Greek, they were written in Coptic. However, I found out that this specific word was coopted from the Greek; the word is κοινωνός (KOINŌNOS). Back to my Logos software where I can search in the Greek and see how it is translated in different texts. There isn't one single text where the context would allow it to mean anything related to Marriage. It has reference to sharing things, partners on journeys, participation in the body of Christ, and so on, but never marriage. It can be used in reference a close bond between people, but was often used in reference to a brotherly or sisterly bond. It could potentially reference marriage much like our english word "partner" could reference marriage or a teammate for a tennis match. However, it is never used to reference marriage in Scripture.
There was another argument made. It would have been highly unusual for Jewish men not to be married in the first century and Mary Magdalene seems like the obvious choice given the information we have. It is true that the norm was to marry, but it was not unusual for an itinerate teacher to remain a bachelor until late in their 30's. Jesus didn't live that long and he was an itinerate teacher. It really wasn't unusual for Jesus to be single. Given the narrative of Scripture there are numerous theological reasons that Jesus would have chosen to remain single even if it would have been uncommon.
In summary, there is absolutely zero positive, compelling evidence that Jesus was ever married. At best it is conjecture based on arguments from silence. I realize that your average person does not have the resources to do this kind of study, but let's make sure we are not gullible and we are not afraid of confronting false teaching when we see it. Here are some questions I could have asked if I didn't want to take such a head on approach:
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.